TEAR DOWN: Former AlTech Steel

It seems like it was always there looming in the background.

If it had eyes, the Lucas Avenue Plant that housed some manufacturing operations of the former AlTech Specialty Steel company would have seen the area’s athletes playing over the years at the fields across the street.

A public hearing on the LAP’s future was held in October 2012 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation at Dunkirk High School. At that time, DEC officials said the building would come down in 2014.

It was explained then there were three choices for the site, with the first being to do nothing. Second would be removing all the contaminated soil to allow for unlimited reuse at an estimated cost of $17.5 million. Third was restoration for industrial or commercial reuse, which is the plan proposed. This would cost an estimated $4.6 million and remove what is considered hazardous waste.

Officials said the cost will be paid by the state’s Superfund. The building would be demolished down to the floor slab and any voids will be back-filled and covered. A site cover of one foot will be put in place upon development.

Dunkirk’s Director of Planning and Development Steve Neratko has been the city’s point man dealing with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“What I’ve been told from the state, it will be this year, hopefully by the spring. It would be end of summer before it would be complete,” he explained of the demolition. “That is one of the last projects they will be doing out of this fund, so they would like to get it spent this summer.”

That is not the only good news for city residents, especially those who live in the vicinity of the brownfield site. The city recently received notice that is will receive some $300,000 in a brownfield grant for planning purposes on what to do with the entire AlTech site – not just the Lucas Avenue portion.

“We’ll have a rather larger commit “We’ll have a rather larger committee that will look into exactly what we’re going to use that site for and how we’re going to get it into the shape it needs to be to get those plans under way. Once this is complete there definitely are funds to do implementation of the project,” he explained. “That can be either remediation or removal of the buildings, removal of any sediment issues and get it back to a clean site.

“In terms of the brownfield grant it will be the entire site, so we’ll look into the entire site. We’ve been advised from the state to really look at a bigger area than just the site itself, so we’ll be looking at Howard Avenue as a route into the bigger site, so we’ll definitely look at that as what exactly should we do.”

That could include repair of the Howard Avenue tunnel that helps carry Crooked Brook on its winding way to Lake Erie. A barricade now blocks Howard Avenue at Bataan Avenue, forcing residents of that western-most section of Howard Avenue to access their homes from Bataan Avenue.

“We need that bridge for any future development at the site. If we’re going to be having large trucks go in and out of there ever again you’re going to need a bridge which supports it,” Neratko explained. “On the other hand, if we’re looking at mostly residential uses you don’t need such a big structure there. We could have a bridge, it just doesn’t need to be an industrial-strength bridge.”

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the plan is to get the bridge fixed.

“At least for now what we know will happen is they will demo the Lucas Avenue section this year,” he added. “Then the brownfield grant is for planning and redevelopment ideas for the whole site.”

According to the DEC website, the LAP is a one-story, approximately 178,000-square-foot former manufacturing facility located on the south side of the west end of Lucas Avenue. Situated on a rectangular parcel of land 2025′ by 200′ the LAP was formerly a part of the larger adjoining AlTech site.

The facility was originally constructed in 1909, with additions constructed in 1920, 1936, 1940 and 1968. The site is bordered by a rail line to the south, Brigham Road to the west, the city’s Department of Public Works building to the east and Lucas Avenue to the north. A residential neighborhood and Dunkirk High School are located on the north side of Lucas Avenue.

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